Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Hermitage Cat Island

...The Hermitage, New Bight, Cat Island...
It has long been a goal of ours to see Cat Island and to hike the highest hill in the Bahamas. Prevailing easterly trade winds and bad weather have prevented us from coming to this Out Island in the past, but this year we succeeded!

Father Jerome was an Englishman who first trained as an architect and a sculptor. In 1903, he became an Anglican priest who built churches in England before coming to the Bahamas for a brief time. After moving to the U. S., he converted to Catholicism and worked as a wagon train driver and a railway laborer. Then he went to Rome and became a Catholic priest in 1915. Next, he designed and built many large churches in Western Australia. Nearly 20 years later, he returned to the Bahamas, to New Bight on Cat Island. In 1939, Father Jerome began building The Hermitage, his residence with a private chapel and bell tower on Mount Alvernia, 206 feet above sea level. He died in 1956 at the age of 79 and is buried on the property. He built a total of 7 churches and one monastery in the Bahamas.

We are fortunate to have already seen two beautifull churches designed and built by Father Jerome in Clarence Town, Long Island, Bahamas. St. Paul's is Anglican (1910) and St. Peter's is Catholic (1947).  We plan to go to Long Island again, on our way southward out of the Bahamas.

Archway to Mount Alvernia.

Reliefs depicting the Stations of the Cross are along a very steep path to the top.

From left to right, the residence, the chapel and the bell tower

Looking west to the waters of Cat Island Bight.
Jerome's tiny bedroom is on the extreme right.

The roofs look recently whitewashed

There is debate whether or not this is Father Jerome's final resting place.

The chimney on the right is for the kitchen.

The entrance to the chapel through a narrow door. Notice the thick, sloped walls.

The spartan bedroom

Arches were used often throughout the buildings.

The inscription over the chapel door means "Shrine of the Holy Spirit"

The altar with a glass window to the east, over looking the Atlantic

A carved Celtic cross

Steep paths in all directions lead from the top of this hill.

Island Spirit viewed through the arch beside the bell tower.

There is a surprising amount of large vegetation on Cat Island, unlike other Bahamian Islands.

Resting in the shade on the beach after our hike

Walking with an umbrella to see Father Jerome's church

The Catholic Church of New Bight Cat Island built by Father Jerome

Stone benches on the beach across King's Highway from the Government Building.
Island Spirit on the horizon.

A squall on the horizon that fortunately did not reach us.

Today was one of the highlights of our cruising season! We wish we had more time to enjoy the colorful fish shacks along the beach here at New Bight and the rake and scrape music from the Sailing Center that welcomed us on Saturday evening. The town encourages boaters to visit and  has built an amazing bath house with 3 stalls and one shower for men and for women. It is spacious with tile walls and countertops, well ventilated and spotlessly clean. There are no facilities like this anywhere else in the Bahamas. We are grateful to our friends Jim and Bentley of s/v Salty Paws for their excellent recommendations about Cat Island!

Remember, we are running a live tracking map recording our travels here, it shows out latest point:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tuna Landed

...Yellow Fin Tuna....
We decided to take this calm weather window and motor over to Cat Island, one of the far islands we have visited in the five years we have sailed to the Exumas. Cat Island has zero protection from west winds, so you need to go there when it is calm, and you can easily stay there when the east trade winds are blowing. Well, we had the calm today to motor the 50 nm over to Cat and tomorrow it will begin blowing from the NE then East so we can anchor safely anywhere on Cat. We plan to explore New Bight, and Frenandez Bay and they maybe Hawks Nest marina before sailing back on the East trade winds to George Town for more Regatta fun.

On the way over, I finally landed out first tuna, it was a 28" yellow fin tuna. We both were so excited. How wonderful to finally land a really nice fish on Island Spirit. We have trailed fishing lines for thousands of miles and today, we finally landed a nice proper sized tuna, and a yellow fin as that. One of the best. We estimate that this created 16 meals at least and we will share with other boaters. What a great treat!

Island Spirit 1, Fish 1,002, so let the games continue. Right now, the fish are winning :-)

Here are some photos of the adventure.

The day started calm in Kidds Cove Elizabeth Harbour, George Town

It was a calm motoring day, no sails
I set out out the lines before we went around the reef and out Conch Cut to sea, but it was not until 7 to 8 miles offshore that the rod dipped and the reel started running out. We had to stop the boat as I could not reel in the fish. After 5-10 minutes. I had the fish along side, Radeen handed me the gaff . I gaffed the fish and landed it into the cockpit. Now the chaos began, We sprayed the fish with fresh rum and that calmed it while I proceeded to knock it out and then bleed it out. Lucky for us, we were also running the watermaker and we had a full tank of water, so we used the fresh water to clean the fish AND the cockpit. All in all, it was exciting, but Radeen was not quite as excited about the entire landing as I was. So, we now have procedures to work out and improve. :-)

I caught this tuna on a Cedar Plug

Yellow Tail Tuna

I tried to get every piece of meat to not waste any

Chipped gelcoat repairs. I hit this corner with a winch handle...
Well....I got so excited during the landing and the taming of the tuna, that I actually damaged our gelcoat as I was swinging the winch handle and knocking out the fish. What??? Errrrrr, Well, I chipped the gelcoat as I hit the corner with the winch handle. I did not even know I hit the step. All of it was truly was a Chinese fire drill. We really need to get better at this fishing game. Right now we are newbies. Here is proof of the excitement....errrr....and the damages to our boat....Oh, the price of Tuna!

No problem, tape it and paint it covered

Every IP needs to carry some ivory paint, got it...spray, spray...fixed

Done....what fish damage?  It is gone.

Tonite on anchor, we thought we might actually see our first green flash, but the sunset did not produce one. Still, look how beautiful the sunset was. It was a really great day on the boat. Something new all the time. We have lots to learn about fishing, that is for sure!

Then it was time for a seared tuna steak, pasta with veggies in a honey and rosemary sauce with some red wine, Bogle Cabernet.
What a perfect day....

Tuna Steak seared

Red in the center, perfect

Good night to all, and to all a good night....Thank you for sailing along.


Friday, February 24, 2017

George Town Exuma Begins

...anchored of the Beach...
We sailed into George Town, (Elizabeth Harbour) all the way into the Chat 'n Chill beach to enjoy the scene. Here we were anchored about 200 yards off the beach with the sun setting over the stern, how exciting. The 37th Annual George Town Cruising Regatta starts this Friday. There are over 300 yachts here, many of which we recognize. We can see why so many cruisers make this harbor THE place to spend the winter. The Elizabeth Harbour is about one mile wide with beaches on the ocean side as well as on the harbour side. There is the famous Volleyball Beach, home to Chat 'n Chill beach, where all the boaters dinghy in and hang out, visiting and playing volleyball, yoga, church services, and present talks about boating life and world cruising. There is something fun going on all the time.

The George Town Harbour
Looking at the harbour, you will see the island to the east called Stocking Island. This island blocks the normal east trade winds so all the boats anchored along the inside well-protected from the winds. This works well until a cold front arrives which pulls the winds to the Southeast and then the South and Southwest and then finally Northwest. Then the winds blow very hard, at 20-30 knots, as the frontal system passes. This SW, NW winds places boats on the lee shore when anchored at Stocking Island. The beauty of this harbor is that you can easily move to the "other side" which is what we do whenever a front is coming. We move over to Kidd Cove and tuck up against the western shore to be protected when the front arrives. There are many good places to move to all along this western shore. Also on this side is Lake Victoria, which is where town and the dinghy dock are located. This dock is at the Exuma Market which provides the free R.O water hose where cruisers take on their water for the day. The ebb and flow of George Town is very simple with beach walks, volleyball, visiting with buddies, and living on anchor, all with free water. What could be better than that?

Julie, Paula, with Hannah, and Radeen
Our first night in George Town we were invited over to the beautiful Cobin Yacht named R-CALLISTA owned by Paul and Paula who are the kindest and the most fun people. We also picked up Don and Julie of the Annapolis Yacht FIRST LIGHT to join in the visit and fun cocktail party aboard R-KALISTA. Paul and Paula rebuilt this double-ender and I think it is one of the most beautiful yachts out here. We really enjoyed catching up on their latest adventures. These guys are from Toronto, Canada and we always find Canadians to be so kind and so much fun. The cruising life is all about the interesting and wonderful people you meet along the way, Paul and Paula are an example of this for sure.

Paul, Hayden and Don

Poker Run awards party
We jumped into the first activity of Regatta, that being the Poker Run which was managed by our Stuart, Florida, buddy, Bill of s/v PROVIDENCE. Bill organized a poker run where over 50 dinghies ran the course meeting at 6 different venues and then ending up at the new and upcoming resort on Stocking Island called LUMINA POINT. This eco-resort is brand new and is quickly becoming the place to stay in the George Town area. 

Lumina Resort, Stocking Island
The private elevated cottages over look the harbor and the resort is all eco-friendly with a very large solar plant and R.O. water and collected rain water for vegetation. People are saying that this place is better than any other Caribbean vacation they have taken. It was here that Bill wrapped up the Poker Run with a large party, our own cruiser DJ George and a fun fun dance party. Of course, a squall came through with high winds and rain and caused a bit of a wet dance floor, but it did not stop the party. Everyone had a very fun time. Great job, Bill!

We found Bill's long lost sister, check out their BLUE EYES

The Poker Run party was fun

Hayden loves to take "selfies".... with Paula

Our own DJ George of sv/COPPER PENNY did a great job, even during the squall

Hayden, Radeen with Bert and Prue sv EXUBERANT

This is before the squall, little did we know we needed rain gear soon

Hayden, Radeen with our new friends,Jeff and Patty sv/AVALON.
They own our sistership. IP35-166, we are IP35-165!

Here are a few more photos....enjoy

The required Chat n Chill sign post photo

Anchored off Chat 'n Chill

The public library of George Town

The pool and patio at Peace and Plenty

Winds of 16.2 knots, gives us 10-12 amps of power

Winds of 16.2 knots, gives us 10-12 amps of power

Everything arrives by ship, here they are offloading gravel

The beautiful blue waters of Kidd Cove

Good Night George Town

So, we are George Town based for a couple of weeks as we stage up for exploring the out islands of Cat and more. Once we discover some new islands we will then prep for a direct run to Provo, 200 nm to the Southeast. Our Caribbean Run begins soon. Guess What? We are closer to St. Thomas than we are to the Florida / Georgia Line, and THAT is why we are heading south!